Senate Republicans are encouraged by developments in the battle over the
appeals-court nomination of Miguel Estrada. One encouraging sign for
Estrada’s supporters is that very few Democrats took to the Senate floor to
denounce Estrada yesterday. For the most part, the senators who spoke out
about Estrada were the usual suspects from the Judiciary Committee — Leahy,
Schumer, and Kennedy. In fact, other than Minority Whip Harry Reid, Sen.
Carl Levin was the only non-committee Democrat to discuss the nomination.
In contrast, Republicans not only turned out their committee members –
Hatch, Sessions, and Kyl — but also heard from non-committee senators like
Jim Bunning, Mike Enzi, Wayne Allard, and George Allen.
Estrada’s supporters believe that today will be a critical day in the
conflict. Democrats are scheduled to have their weekly party lunch at 12:30
today, and it is expected that they will emerge with a decision on whether
or not they will formally filibuster the nomination. Some Republicans
believe Democrats simply do not have the support within their caucus to
mount a filibuster, and that Minority Leader Tom Daschle will reach that
conclusion after today’s lunch.
So far, the numbers are not definitive, but are somewhat encouraging for
Estrada. Democrats need 41 votes to sustain a filibuster. They have 49
members, including the allegedly independent Jim Jeffords. Three Democrats
– Breaux, Nelson, and Miller — have said they will vote for Estrada. A
fourth, Mary Landrieu has not announced her decision, but Republicans are
circulating the text of a Spanish-language ad from her recent re-election
campaign in which she boasted of supporting Estrada. If she goes with
Estrada, that leaves a pool of 45 Democrats from which Daschle has to find
41 willing to support a filibuster. Given the small number of Democrats who
have so far been willing to go onto the Senate floor to publicly discuss the
nomination, reaching 41 appears to be a daunting task for Estrada’s
More will be known at about 2:00 today, after the party lunch.